On Monday June 5, Suffield High School Boys Golf team captured the Division III State Championship capping off a perfect 15-0 season! If you’re a student of Suffield athletics history you might know that the golf team hasn’t been able to break through and win the crown since 1982, when they tied for first place. The Suffield boys have had some phenomenal teams throughout the last decade. In 2009 the team came in second to winner Weston. “Suffield had been close before,” Brendan Looney, a senior said of the team finishing third in 2016 and second in 2015. “We didn’t play well at all last year, but that happens in golf sometimes.”
This team certainly had the experience needed to get the job done. With four seniors and one junior who all play competitively on the CTPGA Junior tour leading the charge, the squad blazed into the regular season. They finished undefeated, and won their conference title, the NCCC Championship, for the fourth straight year. There was only one obstacle remaining to a perfect season and the young men knew what needed to be done.
Led by Individual Medalist Austin Rupp, who carded a bogey free 5-under par 67, Suffield accomplished their goal with a 12 shot victory. Played at Timberlin Golf Course in Berlin, the team’s depth was showcased with their highest score an 80, posted by Zack DelVaglio who finished in 23rd place. Other scorers besides Rupp were Thomas Durkin who finished tied for 4th (73), Brendan Looney who tied for 14 (78) and Justin Coffey, who tied for 17th (79).
The team’s total score of 9-over 297 tied the third lowest score recorded in any State Championship Division since 1931. Killingly, the 2016 champions, finished second with 309 while East Catholic-Manchester was third at 317. “We had a lot of pressure coming in here,” Tom Durkin said. “We knew we had great talent, great coaching and confidence we could get it done.” Durkin will continue to play golf at Rider University in the fall.
Rounding out the team this year were senior Giancarlo Isotti, and underclassmen Donovan Webb, Alec Pryce and Gregory Gouvin. Suffield has been fortunate through the years to have multiple “home courses”. “Playing different courses with a variety of conditions helps the players build a complete golf game. The players and I would like to thank Airways, Suffield Country Club, Crestview Country Club, and the Ranch for their support. One of the first things that the boys did after we got back to town was to seek out their mentor and golf coach Stan McLennan, Golf Professional at Suffield Country Club, to share in the trophy celebration,” Coach McCullough said.
The golf team was motivated this year with more than the sweet victory of a State Championship. In late September of 2016, Coach McCullough suffered a stroke, and his health and future wellbeing remained a question that lingered in these player’s hearts and minds in the days and weeks that followed. The kids rallied around Coach, visited him in the hospital and shared news of his progress around the school in the morning announcements. Worry turned to relief when Coach went on to rehab and it became clear he was going to make a full recovery with time. Motivated by his desire to coach this team of players in their senior year, McCullough returned to the high school to teach in April, just in time for the start of the golf season.
Rupp, who will attend and play golf for Rensselaer (RPI) this fall looked back on his final high school competition and reflected on the win. “When we learned Coach was in the hospital, that’s all we could think about. Later in January when we finally knew he could come back and coach, that was a big lift for all of us. Every player on the team wanted to win this state championship title for him. We worked on being the best we could and staying in the moment.”
Sometimes you need to change up your routine if it is not working. The team took that advice to heart. Their standard pre-match routine before big events was to drink a coconut water and eat a banana. We generally followed up a victory with a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings where the players all “enjoyed” a “blazin” wing. McCullough stated, “When we lost the State Championship last year, the seniors urged me to break things up. We went to Pepe’s Pizza instead to celebrate this year’s NCCC Conference Championship win. And, the boys did not start the State Tournament day with the traditional breakfast at the Country Diner, opting instead for Dunkin’ Donuts.” On all fronts, it appears the karma was changed for the better. When it was all over, the 2017 Suffield High School boys team with Coach McCullough had attained the perfect season with a magical storybook ending they always believed in and will never, ever forget.